7 Tips to Improve Your NoGi BJJ

Table of Contents

Nogi is an amazing version of BJJ, it is fast and flowing as well as extremely fun to practice. 

Each and every year there are more and more Nogi jiujiteiros both competing and practicing this version of Jiu-jitsu which is causing the sport to constantly develop new techniques and strategies and in a sense become an art of its own.

You are most likely part of the nogi BJJ community and like many others are looking for tips to improve your Nogi BJJ skills in order to increase your chances of winning on the mats, so enjoy the following tips as if you focus on them, it will definitely improve your Nogi game.

Add Wrestling to Improve Your Nogi BJJ

Wrestling is absolutely the number one item you can add into your game in order to get better skills for Nogi. Wrestling adds a few elements that will supercharge your grappling game. 

The first is the fact that Wrestling is the king when it comes to taking someone down without a gi. The grips, positions, movement and techniques have been refined to surgical precision and you can be assured that if done properly that they will give your opponent a hard time to defend.

On top of that Wrestling teaches how to properly scramble for position (which we will speak about later on in this article). This means your chances of winning a non-secured position are much higher.

Make Sure to Properly Mix Wrestling with Nogi BJJ

It is vital to understand that you need to make sure you are adding wrestling techniques that are better suited for a Nogi BJJ setting, this means to always be weary of the fact that certain wrestling techniques can expose you to a submission, especially guillotines and Kimuras.

To make sure you are adding wrestling properly to your Nogi BJJ game, you should study wrestling from a coach that understands the intricacies of BJJ and can help build your wrestling game properly for Nogi.

Focus on Nogi BJJ Grips

Like many grappling arts, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has many grips which if secured properly can really sway the advantage of a grappling match. When practicing Nogi you must understand that man grips that work with the gi simply are not effective in Nogi and as result you need to change your gripping game in order to maximize and secure positional dominance.

Nogi grips are very similar to wrestling grips such as collar and elbow, neck, 2 on 1, front headlock, wrist control, underhook, bear hug and more. All these grips can be done both standing and on the ground and if utilized properly will really up your nogi game to the next level as you will be able to better control your opponent’s movement and body position as well as better defend from attacks and reversals.

Focus on Techniques Better for Nogi BJJ

BJJ is full of thousands of techniques and many of them focus on securing a proper grip of the gi and position prior to performing the technique, some of the techniques in gi can translate to nogi wonderfully but there are a huge number of high percentage gi techniques that simply become low percentage nogi techniques when you remove the ability to grab the gi. 

This is not to say that there Nogi grapplers cannot pull off these gi techniques without a gi, but it is a much much lower percentage of nogi grapplers that are able to do so and at the same time it is much more intelligent to use effort towards high percentage Nogi techniques.

Guards that Work Better for Nogi

Definitely the first area to focus on is the type of guards you will use for Nogi due to the fact that the guard is such a common place to find yourself (both being in the guard and escaping the guard). 

The fact that there is no BJJ gi to attain grips off of drastically reduces the effectiveness if not eliminating the use of certain BJJ guards such as the lasso guard, collar sleeve guard, worm guard and more. 

Guards that work better for Nogi are the closed guard, butterfly guard, rubber guard, half guard, X guard and single leg x guard. These guards are much better for control and going for submission and all nogi practitioners should practice these in a Nogi setting as they are a huge part of all Nogi BJJ matches.

Submissions that Work Better for Nogi

Not having a BJJ gi to work submissions off of and the fact that Nogi is slippery due to opponents sweat make certain submissions very hard to get. A good way to look at the submission game for Nogi is to split submissions into primary Nogi submissions and secondary Nogi submission. Primary being submissions that have a much higher percentage to pull off and secondary being submissions that have a much lower percentage of pulling off.

The primary submissions for Nogi are leg locks, guillotines, chokes such as the D’arce and the rear naked choke. All of which are very high percentage and can be seen successfully applied at all levels of Nogi competition.

The secondary submissions for Nogi are triangles, armbars and kimuras. This is not to say you will not see these specific submissions being pulled off but they will be lower in percentage than the primary submissions, especially at elite level nogi competitions such as the ADCC and IBJJF Nogi World championships.

Understanding the nogi submission hierarchy and applying it in ratio will contribute to pulling off more submissions as you will be concentrating on submissions that have a much higher percentage of working under the pressure of a nogi grappling scenario.

Takedowns that Work Better for Nogi

Being able to takedown an opponent is a sign of a good grappler, Being able to takedown an opponent with a takedown better suited for Nogi BJJ is a sign of a great grappler.

Understanding setups as well as how to follow through on takedowns is pivotal for takedown success in Nogi and even more importantly, understanding how to takedown an opponent and avoid submissions and sweeps is paramount in being proficient and effective at takedowns for Nogi.

Focus on takedowns that are high percentage in nature and leave you in a good position to easily stand back up should you fail at taking the opponent down, a good example of this would be an underhook to knee pick which is a great takedown for Nogi BJJ.

Learn How to Defend Leg Locks

Leg locks are the most dangerous type of Nogi submission as they are relatively easy to perform and have a high percentage of working. Knowing how to defend leglocks properly will give you the ability and confidence to remain calm when you find yourself in a dangerous submission situation as you will have the tools to help you get out safely.

Concentrate on learning how to get out of the major leg locks such as the heel hook, toe hold and knee bar as these are the most common leglocks in Nogi.

Work on Your Speed and Agility for Nogi BJJ

Nogi is fast and slippery with a huge amount of movement in comparison to BJJ with a gi. Working on speed  and agility of movement is going to really increase your ability to apply positions and submissions as well as defend against them as well.

Notice any top ADCC competitor and you will see that they simply move to where they want to quickly and effortlessly, this is because they train to increase these specific attributes as they know that being fast and agile is beneficial for improving Nogi ability.

The best way to improve speed and agility is by drilling specific Nogi agility drills as well as increasing overall grappling conditioning and lastly by losing weight as being overweight will impact your overall performance.

Learn to Scramble Properly for Nogi

The past decade has seen many top Nogi competitors add wrestling to their repertoire. The addition of wrestling can not only be seen in the ability to perform proper takedowns but also in the ability to scramble in and out of position.

Scrambling simply means that you have the ability to fight from position to position until you gain control, basically the ability to fight for good position. This can mean several moves sequenced with fighting from one move to another and ending with one competitor attaining a dominant position, submission or takedown.

Without a doubt, learning how to wrestle will increase your ability to scramble but you need to remember to refine your scrambling ability on the BJJ mat as you will need to be able to avoid submissions and the opponent latching on to a guard position.

Another great benefit of developing scrambling ability for Nogi BJJ is that it will truly with guard passing and defending and attacking the turtle position, where agility and focus are needed to properly dominate the fight for dominance in position.

Learn to Work Off of Failed Submission Attempts

Nogi is full of fast and dangerous submissions and knowing how to capitalize on failed submission attempts is key to developing both great chain wrestling ability and turning a bad situation into a fruitful one.

You can capitalize both when you fail a submission or when your opponent fails getting a submission on you. 

The best way to get better at working off failed submission attempts is to work on your scrambling ability, speed, agility and technical understanding of the Nogi game.

Watch any ADCC or IBJJF Nogi tournament and you will see that a very common theme of attaining an advantageous position or dominant submission is when a competitor capitalizes on a failed submission attempt. Try to add this element into your Nogi game and you will only benefit from doing so.

In Conclusion

Nogi is an absolutely amazing grappling art and by following these tips which are all interlinked, you will only find true success on the mats and in competition. Practice makes perfect, so train hard, train smart and have fun in the process of improving your Nogi BJJ skills.


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